Migratory Fish and the Dollars They Bring


Osprey Catches Alewife, Damariscotta Mills, Maine | Keith Carver

Osprey Catches Alewife, Damariscotta Mills, Maine | Keith Carver

For many of us it never gets old to see a river flowing free after a restoration, new plants growing in the restored area, and fish and wildlife returning to the reopened habitat. However, that beautiful landscape or recovery of an endangered species isn’t the only driver behind the dollars spent to restore our rivers and our fisheries. Thankfully we have information on just what river restoration means to the economy.

As we continue our celebration of World Fish Migration Day (May 24), I’ll touch on a few of the economic outcomes of restoring migratory river herring here in Massachusetts and more generally the Northeast. For reference, the term “river herring” includes the species of blueback herring and alewife.

In healthy, connected streams, these fish are a critical biomass as they return in the tens or hundreds of thousands to spawn in freshwater. They provide important forage for species of interest to the recreational and commercial fishing industry, including striped bass and Atlantic bluefin tuna. According to the American Sportfishing Association’s 2013 report, Sportfishing in America [PDF], the sportfishing industry brought in $475 million just in retail sales to Massachusetts in 2011. That same year, the report estimates that the sportfishing industry also brought in over 7,000 jobs to Massachusetts.

These dollar figures are just part of the reason why projects that restore river herring, like the dam removals on Town Brook in Plymouth and the Mill River in Taunton, are so important.

Economic contributions of dam removal and river restoration projects that go beyond fisheries benefits include jobs created directly from the projects and new opportunities for recreational boating and riverside trails. As a result, these projects bring much needed resources to local communities. If you’re interested in some additional information and examples, you can check these out:

But maybe you’re not a numbers person. Or even if you are, just take the time to sit back and enjoy the view of a restored river. Maybe even do it from your canoe or kayak with friends. Spring is here and the fish are running in many parts of the country. What more of an excuse do you need?